Free Sometimes Really Means Free

 

Repeatedly the company calls. I have been selected to win this absolutely free, three-day cruise. I roll my eyes, make some sarcastic remark, and hang up. Just before the voice tells me to push a button and claim my free-gift.

Momma was right. “If it sounds too good to be true; it is.”

Yup, they just happened to call me (out of the all the other millions of people) to offer me a trip to some exotic place. Three days on a boat. Free.

Each time they call, I hung up and start laughing. Free? Sure?

This offer seemed way to good. There had to be a catch.

 

Free often doesn’t really mean free. 

 

We hadn’t been married long, when we headed to the beach for a free night at a resort. After a pleasant 3-hour trip, we were checking in; being handed keys, told about the pool, restaurant, exercise room and more. Oh, and our appointment the next afternoon with some nice sounding person to discuss our stay.

Yes, little did we know our short chat would turn into a two-hour high-pressured sales presentation where we were presented with the opportunity to buy a yearly stay at the resort. Our first introduction to a time share. We didn’t budge or cave in, and left with our wallet not drained, but we were wrung out and lifeless from our fight to say no.

Ever since that life-sucking experience, I know that there is no free stay or cruise. (Even if we did return with a free knife. It would have been a free TV if we had only said yes!)

I mentioned the free cruise calls to my sister, and guess what? She had been getting offered a free three-day cruise too.

One day she decided to have some fun with the customer service person and figure out how much this free cruise would really cost a person. Turns out there were port fees. Boat fees. And other fees.

“So, what was the bottom line cost for this free three-day cruise?” I asked.

She laughed. “Well, this free cruise was going to cost $800 to $1000.”

“That’s so free,” I laughed.

Free often has strings attached.

 

It was no surprise. Because it seems in life, few things are really free.

Free, as in they don’t cost you something.

You may get a set of free stake knives, but you had to buy the exercise equipment first. You may get a free CD, but you had to buy a twenty-three set first. That coffee may be free, but only after you bought the 12 previous cups.

Yes, we get cynical and laugh at anything free. Life shows us at an early age most things are not free.

We want to visit our classmate, but mom says we have to clean our room and the chicken pen fist. We get a gift from a schoolmate, but now they expect us to eat lunch with them. We can get a free super-duper bow and arrow, but we first have to sell 100 rolls of gift wrap. We earn good grades in school, but are now expected to earn more.

Free? Nothing seems free.

And we buy into this attitude.

We doubt that others do things for free. Without wanting something in return.

Someone invites us over for dinner, we feel indebted until we have them over. Our kids get a ride to the game, we feel we owe something back. Our mate surprises us with a splendid night out, we feel we need to return the favor. We go to a free lecture, but feel obligated to buy a self-help program.

But others are not the only ones expecting things in return.

We  also expect things back. Payment of some kind. 

We take our kids out to the playground, and we expect them to be good the rest of the day. We babysit for a friend, and then feel we can ask them to reciprocate in the future. We make a special dinner with candles and a lone flower, and we expect people to appreciate it, to even say thank you.

We often want something in return for our efforts, even if it is praise, appreciation, acknowledgement, or a thank you.  

I am not saying that we should not acknowledge and appreciate and thank people. No, we should. It is part of treating them the way we want to be treated. It is being thankful.

Sometimes we do something for someone, our family, or kids, and get a little bit tweaked out of shape when what we do was not acknowledged, appreciated, or mentioned. We can get resentful or upset because our free-gift was not really given without strings attached. The fine print, which they fail to read, really said, “Not really totally and completely free. Something expected in return.”

Somethings, though, free things in life are really free. No strings attached.

 

We don’t expect totally free things, nor do we often don’t give totally free things.

And yet there is someone who gives good gifts that are totally free. No strings attached.

Seriously! No laughing now.

Have you ever paid for a sunrise? A sunset? The rain? Watching a bird in your backyard? The view of the mountains? A walk on the beach? A breath of air? A breeze? The shade of a tree?

Nature surrounds us, and it is free. Beauty surrounds us, and it is free.

Did you pay for your personality? Strengths? Intellect? Talents and gifts? Your smile? 

God surrounds us all with his good gifts. His daily and nightly gifts. Free to all.

He offers us the free gift of salvation, where we receive a new heart and have our sins cancelled. No cost here, all free. No self-improvement, no shower or clean clothes, no weight loss, no repayment plan, no perfection required or owed. A come as you are gift. No strings attached. We just receive.

He offers us so many free gifts if we just come and spend some time with him. Good things. Valuable things. Peace, joy, wisdom, love, patience, rest, hope, direction, laughter, a new heart, grace and more grace, and eternal life.

He gives these things freely. But we need to stop doubting. Wondering if they are really free. Quit looking for strings attached. Quit expecting this is a timeshare or sales presentation. Because it is not.

Our job is to quit doubting. Quit trying to earn. Quit trying to avoid taking the gift until we have payment ready.

Because when God says free. There is no fine print.

Acknowledge him and his free gifts and his friendship he offers.

Sounds to simple, doesn’t it? Sounds to good to be true? Well we can trust him.

And when we do, we don’t feel so bad about giving truly free gifts with no strings attached to those around us. Not when we think of all the free gifts we have been given.

Try it. Receive from him, and then give back to others.

Thanks for stopping by. Keep remembering what’s important.Theresa


If you need some weekly encouragement and hope, tied up with some humor? Subscribe and join the journey. Life is sweeter when we walk alongside one another.


Join the discussion: What free gifts have you enjoyed?  

May link up at Jennifer Dukes Lee (#tellhisstory);  Holley Gerth (#coffeeforyourheart), Lori Schumaker (#Moments of Hope), Crystal Storms (#HeartEncouragement), Arabah Joy (#Grace & Truth).

Why is There Always Something to Complain About?

 

It seems we don’t have to look far.

Maybe just in the mirror.

Or at our house or apartment.

Or our lack of house or Apartment.

Or at our job. Or lack of job.

Or at our kids or husband.

Or lack of kids and husband.

Before we find something to complain about.

 

There is always something to complain about. 

 

Things to complain about are lying all around us, shouting to us their defects in neon blinking colors.

There is never a lack of things to complain about. Never a shortage. Rations are not ever enforced on complaints. No little man ever pops up and says, “Ma’am. I am sorry, but you’ve used all your complaints for the day. You will have to wait until tomorrow to begin complaining again. At midnight your allowance for complaints will be refilled. Until then I need you to refrain from complaining.”

And not only do we complain out loud to our husbands, friends, children, neighbors, the cashier at the grocery store, and anyone who we think will listen and not report us to the complaining police, we even complain in our mind. Silently, we complain and whine and think, “Oh no, not again.”

Yes, it seems, there is always something to complain about.

Always.

If you are not convinced, try and go a day without complaining.

Okay, if that is easy, how about a week?

It’s like trying to not eat for a week.

It’s darn hard! Nearly impossible.

Our mind likes to notice the harmful things, bad things, dangerous things. Things that are not right or safe. The faults in things and people. And that is not all bad. It is trying to protect us, help us.

How complaining keeps us from solving the problem.

 

Complaining never helps us. It never solves the problem.

It makes us feel like we are doing something (yes, we are venting our emotions and feelings, and our disgruntledness), but we are not doing something helpful.

Here is the truth about complaining. One complaint leads to another. And then another.

See one thing wrong with yourself, and it won’t be but a nanosecond before you notice something else wrong. Then two more. No four more. And soon we are heading into a downward spiral and about to sit down and start a pity party of one. Don’t forget the balloons and noisemakers! And if we notice someone walking by, someone we feel comfortable with, we may even start telling them our woes and ask them to blow up a few balloons and bring some chips and dip and join our pity party. Because who wants to party alone?

Yes, find one complaint, and more follow. Bam, bam, bam, until it is hard to stop the train from rolling down, down, down.

Let’s imagine there is something wrong. Maybe you find a big thick three-inch green hair emerging from your left eyebrow line. So is it time to complain. A big fat ‘NO’ is coming at you. And here is why. Complaining never solves anything. Nada. Not a single darn thing.

Complaining and whining and throwing a pity party won’t remove that three-inch green hair from your brow line. Girl, what you gotta do is grab a pair of tweezers and give a big mean yank to that stubborn green hair. That’s what will solve the problem. Now you can have a celebration party for solving your problem!

Remember, complaining never solves a problem. It only makes us think we are doing something towards solving it.

The only way to solve a problem it by taking action and doing something. Doing something  involves an action verb. While complaining could be classified as an action verb, I am not going to allow you to employ it as an action verb.  Mainly, because complaining only creates a bigger problem.

 

The 5 effects of complaining.

 

1. Complaining helps us see all the other things wrong with us and others and our situation.

2. It sends us in a downward spiral.

3. It sucks the joy and peace and grace from us. Out it rushes like an uncorked balloon. And just like that screeching balloon zipping around the room, it don’t sound pretty.

4. Complaining topples us into a negative attitude. And that can be a deep pit to climb out of.

5. We become critical, negative, sarcastic, and hard to live with.

Yikes. Who wants to be that unhappy person? Not us.

The real truth about always complaining.

 

Do you remember the story of Moses and the complaining Israelites? They had no bread. Meat was lacking. They were thirsty. Their feet were sore. Stones were poking into their ribs at night when they slept. They longed for the good old days of slavery to the Egyptians. Nothing was normal or the way it had been. They were tired of wandering and hot and dusty to the bone.

I used to hear that story as a kid and wonder why they complained so much. Chapter after chapter they complained. Even when bad things happened to them. They were chronic complainers.

Then I grew up and realized they were just like the rest of us. They were born complainers and whiners. Just like I was. If I thought for a minute that if I had been on that dusty hot trek I would not have complained, than I am fooling myself. Here I live a life of ease and comforts with tennis shoes and hiking boots and dish washers and clothes dryers, and I still complain.

But remember what God told Moses? Because I did not notice this part for years. God told Moses that all their complaints to him about lack of meat and onions and the long trek, where really complaints about God. Yes, ultimately they were complaining about God and his provisioning of them. Sure they complained to Moses, but God heard their grumblings as complaints about him and his actions towards them.

Well I sat up when I noticed that. And then started thinking.

So when I am complaining about my house, am I really saying that God didn’t give me the correct one? Or that he didn’t know what he was doing?

When I complain about my day, am I saying God is not giving me the kind of day I deserve and want? That perhaps he doesn’t understand me well enough?

And when I complain about my appearance, am I really saying that God made some mistakes when he made me? That he perhaps gave me the wrong hips or nose?

Surly I was saying that I was lacking faith in him to take care of me and know what is best for me or to direct my circumstances to my best.

And surely I was forgetting to count my blessings and rejoice in all things and know that all things were working out for my good.

Well girls, it was sobering thought and revelation. And it made me realize how seriously God takes our complaining. Because bottom line, it seems when we complain, we are really complaining about how God is taking care of us and provisioning us.

Complaining also keeps us from walking in faith. It shows we are relying on our current  circumstances and our self, instead of God.

Why there is always something to complain about? And how to stop complaining.

 

See, there will always be something to complain about because we are living in an unperfect world with other imperfect humans. Trials, natural disasters, and time and chance strike us. Heartache and sin assault us. The actions of others affects us. We get sick and lose jobs and have nights of no sleep. And inside, our souls long for perfection. To return to the Garden of Eden where perfection was the norm.

But God’s plan is for us to learn and grow and overcome and change for the better in this  beautiful and yet messy world where we learn to rely on him and learn about his love and plan for us.

There is always something to complain about. But God doesn’t want us to be complainers.

So have I quit complaining? No, but I am trying to complain a lot less. And that is a step in the right direction.

One thing I can do is replace complaining with counting my blessings.

Counting our blessings is the opposite of complaining. One is seeing the deficits, the other is noticing the positives. One is telling God how he is failing, the other is thanking God for his provisions.  

Now I don’t expect we will never complain again. Far from it. We are human. And humans are known for complaining and seeing the worst. We will be fighting our complaining gene until the day we die. But girls, we can learn to stop ourselves and our downward spiral. We can learn to count our blessings. Learn to take steps to solve the problem. Learn to live with the problem. See the problem as a blessing in disguise.

We can rejoice and be thankful for what is right and good in our lives. Focus on the positive. And we can ask God to help us see his love and blessings, more than the complaints.

 

Remembering what’s important.

 

What about you? Are you ready to complain less?

There will be always be something to complain about.

Is that how you want to spend your life? Complaining?

Because likewise, there will always something to be thankful for.

Always.

I don’t want to be known as a complainer.

I want to be known as a thanker. A thanker of every good gift.

Thanks for stopping by. Keep remembering what’s important. 

Theresa

 


Need some weekly encouragement and hope, tied up with some humor? Subscribe and join the journey. Life is sweeter when we can walk alongside one another.  




Join the Discussion: How do you keep from complaining? Any specific tips? 

Linking up at Jennifer Dukes Lee (#tellhisstory); and Holley Gerth (#coffeeforyourheart), Lori Schumaker (#Moments of Hope),  Crystal Storms (#HeartEncouragement), Arabah Joy (#Grace & Truth).  

A Letter to My Daughter: Remember This

Theresa Boedeker

Connecting with your daughter can be hard.

Sometimes spoken words do not make it past our daughter’s ears.

And sometimes what has been working before, no longer works in the relationship, like tickling and hugging the frown off her face. When this happened to me, I turned to pen and paper and wrote a letter to encourage my daughter.

Dearest Ashley,

Remember that I always wanted you.

From the time I missed my period, I prayed for you to be healthy and spunky. Your father and I would lie in bed talking to you beneath my overstretched skin like you were already with us. I always felt you’d be a girl. While you slowly grew, your limbs testing the limits of the womb and probing my insides, I sewed blankets and bumper pads for you, dreamed of you, sang to you, and loved you.

Remember you are beautiful.

Other people may have seen a little girl with only wisps of hair when you were three, but I saw you full of life, gregarious, curious, and generous. You loved to start-up conversations with shoppers in the grocery store as you swung your legs from the seat of the cart. You had an imagination that astounded me. You are now eleven, on the brink of adolescence, your body gearing up for changes to womanhood, and yet you are more beautiful than ever as you slowly, and still cautiously, take steps to become your own person. That hair that took so long to grow in is now thick, the color of fine wood. Most of all, your personality sparkles through your large blue eyes atop your cute pug nose and ready smile.

Remember you are unique.

You are like me in so many ways, and yet unlike me. We both love to read, write, learn, create, play the piano, watch theater, tell jokes, and visit people. Our personalities are the same in many aspects and yet in different ways we diverge. You have a kinder heart for animals, a stronger sense of self; you are bold and brave, not afraid to stand up for yourself or others. I have watched you over the years, learning from you.

Remember that raising you has been a joy.

My most influential job has been mothering you. Watching you take your first steps, being available to listen to your hurts and kiss your bruises, helping you figure out math problems, picking you up from school, answering your questions about life and how things work, becoming acquainted with your friends, and quietly studying your habits and personality traits.

Remember you are most important to me.

Sometimes I get so busy with life and completing my chores that I overlook the importance of spending time with you, being there for you and really listening. I forget that dishes and writing can wait, that you are growing and soon will be stepping from the nest to begin your own journey. Spending time with you brings so much happiness, whether it is talking to you during our drives to school, shopping for a new dress, reading Anne of Green Gables before bed or making peanut butter cookies. These little times are special and have created wonderful memories. Memories that make up who you are and bind us forever together.

Remember you are you are my beloved daughter! Always.

Write your daughter a letter:

1. Choose carefully selected words that communicate she is special, loved, and wanted.
2. Create specific images that recall certain times or events.
3. Sign and date your letter. Keep a copy for yourself.
4. Don’t underestimate the power of the written word.

This first appeared as a guest post at Prayers for Girls.

Remember what’s important,

Theresa